Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What does the racist legislation in Arizona have to do with pizza?

For anyone following me on twitter, you've already seen this old Public Enemy video I "tweeted" a couple days ago, but maybe you didn't necessarily get the cryptic meaning behind it. Anyway, here's Public Enemy's "By The Time I Get To Arizona":

My friend Mimi Nguyen over at Threadbared, who wrote a pretty insightful essay on the matter earlier in the week just posted a statement from Chuck D and his wife, Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson that I'd like to repost as well:
Jan Brewer’s decision to sign the Arizona immigration bill into law is racist, deceitful, and reflects some of the most mean-spirited politics against immigrants that the country has ever seen. The power that this law gives to police, to detain people that they suspect to be undocumented, brings racial profiling to a new low. Brewer’s actions and those of Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, the Arizona State Senate are despicable, inexcusable, and endorse the all-out hate campaign that Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, and others have perpetrated upon immigrants for years. The people of Arizona who voted for this bill, as well as those who crafted it, demonstrate no regard for the humanity or contributions of Latino people. And for all of those who have chosen not to speak up, shame on you for silently endorsing this legislated hate.
In 1991 I wrote a song criticizing Arizona officials (including John McCain and Fife Symington) for rejecting the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The same politics I wrote about in “By the Time I Get to Arizona” are alive and well in Arizona today, but this time the target is Brown people.
These actions must stop. I am issuing a call to action, urging my fellow musicians, artists, athletes, performers, and production companies to refuse to work in Arizona until officials not only overturn this bill, but recognize the human rights of immigrants. This should include the NBA playoffs, revisiting the actions of the NFL in 1993, when they moved the Superbowl to Pasadena in protest against Arizona’s refusal to recognize Dr. King. We all need to speak up in defense of our brothers and sisters being victimized in Arizona, because things are only getting worse. What they’re doing to immigrants is appalling, but it will be even more damning if we remain silent.”
There have been dozens of political occurrences since the inception of Slice Harvester that have literally made me feel like puking, but I've exercised some pretty difficult self-control in not making this website into a pulpit. That's not to say I don't sometimes sermonize, when it's relevant. I am an anarchist Jew from New York, we are an opinionated people. But I've refrained from posting things that don't somehow correlate to the pizza I'm reviewing. This is my first "purely political" post.

And I think that this disgusting legislation actually has serious bearing on the subject matter of Slice Harvester. My ethnic background is Jewish and Irish. As far as I know, none of my family was present in America earlier than about 100 years ago on the Irish side, and substantially less than that on the Jewish side. My father grew up in an immigrant neighborhood in Queens that my Jamaican best friend's mom currently lives in! This city and this country have a long history of being made more interesting, or at least kept in a state of constant growth and fluxuation, by the influx of new populations from new locales.

No matter how you slice it (ha!), the story of pizza is an immigrant tale, and continues to be. From 1895 when Gennaro Lombardi opened up his grocery store on Spring St, through the early 90s when Albanian immigrants fleeing the Kosovo War settled in New York and began opening pizzerias, to now, when many pizzerias are staffed almost entirely by folks from more Southern climes. Pizza is and always has been immigrant food. The strand of cheese between the native New Yorker's mouth and his slice of pizza can be thought of as a bridge connecting himself, and his family's history (seriously, who do you know from New York that's not like, third generation at most?) to that of the more recent immigrants making his food and to the entire history of New York City! Get with it, pizza is progressive.

And that's why any devotee to the Great Pizzaola or at least anyone with an affinity for a decent slice has an obligation to oppose this sort of racist legislation. It stands in the way of pizza progress, and it stands against every core value that every single slice upholds. Forget your obligation to your conscience, or your obligation to other human beings. Think of your obligation to pizza, and pizza's majestic history.

My friend Kate Wadkins recently twirted a link from her tworter to Arizona governor Jan Brewer's contact form. Go let her know that the pizza eaters of America will not stand for this sort of legislative intolerance.


  1. It's going to be a larf when none of the Zoners can get their pool cleaned, their Scottsdale lawns manicured, their buildings put up, or any of the other things done for which they rely on immigrants. Meanwhile, I'm hoping that the rest of the intolerant members of the d-bag party MOVE TO ARIZONA. Wouldn't it be grand to have them all in one place?

  2. you never like any legislation ever

  3. Way to go SH. All I can think of when I read this legislation is the German phrase: Let me see your papers.